In 1851, Britain lost probably one of the greatest painters of all time: Joseph Mallord William Turner died, whose paintings can instantly be recognised and remain to this day the treasure of nineteenth-century impressionism. The collection of his paintings, now held at the Tate Britain and in the Ashmolean Museum of the University of Oxford, was put together at the time, patiently catalogued and arranged with extreme care through the work of one man: John Ruskin, university teacher, art critic, would-be geologist, and temporary executor of Turner's will. This example may sound completely outdated, and yet I would like to suggest that it encapsulates many issues that need addressing in relation to university heritage today. For this is a story where conservation and the sense of a legacy was crucial, and where the links between university and general access to knowledge had to be firmly established and reinforced both by individuals and by institutions. Without Ruskin and Oxford University and the many schemes developed to properly house the collections of paintings and the numerous drawings of the artist, Turner's oeuvre would probably have been sold and scattered throughout the country or even the world.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.